The Latest | Southern California breaking news and trends
Environment & Science

Wernerius inyoensis you like a hurricane: New scorpion discovered in Death Valley

The new arachnid in town, Wernerius inyoensis.
The new arachnid in town, Wernerius inyoensis.
Photo via ZooKeys Journal

A new, tiny scorpion species was discovered in Death Valley, and the elusive critter may actually live underground, according to a new report.

Believed to be just over half an inch long, the creature was found by UNLV doctoral candidate Matthew Graham during a nighttime search, notes the L.A. Times.

Ultraviolet light caused the animal glow in the dark, per chemicals in creature's exoskeletons, and Michael Webber, another UNLV doctoral candidate, helped identify the animal as a new species.

Wernerius inyoensis is probably closely related to two other rare scorpions in the desert Southwest: Wernerius spicatus, which is native to Joshua Tree National Park, and Wernerius mumai, which lives along the Colorado River near Parker, Ariz.

Like those animals, Wernerius inyoensis has an unusually shaped spine above its stinger. But differences in the animal’s tail, reproductive organs and pedipalps — its pincers — led Graham and Webber to conclude it was a unique species.

The students, who named the scorpion after the Inyo Mountains where it was found, published their extensive findings in the journal ZooKeys, and their Death Valley specimen will go on long-term loan to the Natural History Museum in San Diego.

Said Webber, scorpions are sometimes called "living fossils," because their bodies have barely evolved in the 400 million years since the arachnids first pinched their way into the food chain.